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Forté Foundation: Tips for Kickstarting your Internship Quest

mba summer internship advice forté foundation panel

The Forté Foundation’s annual MBA Women’s Leadership Conference looked a little different this year. The two-day event promotes the future career paths of incoming women MBAs at Forté partner schools (including Forté Fellows) and this year, the conference took on virtual delivery for the first time ever – but this didn’t stop the event empowering female MBAs.

One panel discussion was Kickstart Your Leadership Quest, offering first-hand advice from experts in the field on how to navigate and prepare for the summer internship recruitment process.

Allison Myers of Accenture Strategy (Michigan Ross School of Business MBA), Lourdes Long of Chevron (Harvard Business School MBA) and Hong Zhou of Liberty Mutual (University of Washington Foster School of Business MBA) offered attendees’ advice and personal anecdotes from their summer internship programs. 

Exploration is one the first things the panelists think interns should focusing on. Through this, you’ll understand different companies, industries and functionalities, and determine whether you fit.

Job conferences are a good way to enable this. Hong said: “I went to a job conference in September, before my MBA started. I had my resume, added pictures ready, and I traveled across the country.

“It was like a one-page shop for information. It was overwhelming but it was helpful. I received my first intern offer from that job conference. It was quite a rewarding trip.”

Aligning your internship with career goals

Lourdes Long Chevron Harvard MBA Forté FoundationLourdes (pictured) was in the energy sector before she started her MBA at Harvard, and she knew she wanted to remain in the sector, something that helped her to choose the right internship for her.

The questions she asked herself surrounded functionalities, she said: “What type of company did I want to work for (larger, small, regional), where was I willing to live.

“When I approached the internship, I was looking for a company or experience that would help me test that, and Chevron provided that opportunity, because they have a commercial function business and MBA development program.

“I moved to Houston for that internship. That was an important testing ground for me and helped me answer some of my questions coming into the second year, and the decision I wanted to make for a full-time position.”

Navigating recruiting

Allison is the lead for the MBA internship program at Accenture and has spent a lot of time over the past four years helping MBAs through the process. Who better to ask about the big picture for recruiting?

First year students will watch second-year peers go through recruiting, to which Allison implores first years to pay attention.

She said: “It can help inform your own process in terms of how they're casing, approaching, different groups, how they're networking, and you'll notice they'll have relationships from the prior year that they're working on continuing and building.”

You want to have these conversations and build relationships with people over time. Allison said: “Talk to the second years. Folks that previously interned to really understand where you want to go as well as where you fit.”

The importance of asking questions

Networking and asking a lot of questions will help you stand out in the crowd early on in the recruiting process.

Hong Zhou Forté Foundation panelFor example, Hong (pictured) says Liberty Mutual’s corporate development program is designed for people starting in a management consultant role to grow into a general manager role. She said: “We don't expect to hire an expert in the insurance industry, we're looking for candidates with sense, so they have the capability to learn new things very quickly.

“I think showing passion, curiosity and eagerness to learn is what makes candidates stand out.”

Hong also thinks demonstrating you can process huge amounts of data to identify patterns and trends and how to use the data to drive a business decision is a huge bonus.

When Chevron interviews for internships and full-time positions, cultural fit, interest in the sector and company are very important. Lourdes said: “It’s fine if you don't have a background in the energy sector, but we're looking to understand if your ‘why’ is coherent and compelling.

“The internship can be a bit more of an exploration. For full-time, we want to know, is this the right fit for you for several decades, which is a little bit different than some other MBA models.”

Lourdes also says demonstrating you’ve done the legwork is important. Do you know the basic things you should know about the company or program? However, one major point to demonstrate is whether you’ve reached out to your business school’s network within the company.

She said: “It's always a big warning sign for me if I see a Harvard candidate and they haven't reached out to me. If they haven't, that's a concern for me because you haven't done the basic research and used the network.”

If you don’t do the basic legwork, it raises the question on how interested you are in the company. Checking off those simple boxes are good indicators that you're serious and you put in your time and research.

Being flexible

You won’t always be successful in your internship search, and so it’s important to manage rejection. Lourdes said given the state of the world right now, people going to business school need to be more flexible and resilient.

She said: “I'm optimistic it's going to open more opportunities, but you're probably not going to have the business school or internship experience that you thought you were going to have when you started this process.”

When thinking about the internship, Lourdes said you should remain focused on your objectives and remain flexible on how you meet them. She said: “Don't get wrapped up in what you want in this one internship with this one company in this one location, because that may not exist next summer because of what's going on in the world through no fault of your own.”

Think about the skills you want to build, what long term factors you want to test, and find ways to satisfy that, even if it's not through the same opportunity you were dreaming of when you applied to business school or wrote your application.

Lourdes said: “It's two years, which is a long time and not a very long time. While the summer internship is very important, think about the timelines as a bit more fluid. It's a long career journey and it doesn't stop at the end of your internship or the end of your MBA program.”

Moving online

Allison Myers Accenture Michigan Ross MBA Forté Foundation panelIn this new normal, companies have been able to pivot and create new internship experiences for MBAs. Allison (pictured) said Accenture pivoted 650 analysts and consultants all to virtual orientation.

She said: "It means we're able to pull in people from all around the country. While you may not get to meet in person, you’re able to meet people from a ton of different offices, and as it's such a big company, that's been really helpful and encouraging.”

Alison also noted there’s a lot more flexibility and openness connecting with people in general. She said: “Accenture has a very open-door policy. Typically, leaders are very open to meeting people, particularly interns. I think everyone's very willing to speak to those folks and it's even easier in the virtual setting.”

Unchartered territory

Virtual recruiting was already seeing an uptick at business schools with companies like Amazon and Google recruiting in this manner for a few years. But to some, it’s still a new concept.

As everything has shifted online in recent months, it’d be unsurprising if internships were soon virtual too.

Hong admits Mutual Liberty has been encouraging flexible working and virtual collaboration for a long time, so working form home wasn’t a hard switch, adding businesses and organizations are equipped with the technology and tools to support employees.

She said: “Especially now during this very unique situation, people would understand this is a new norm in business, and everybody will work together to overcome those challenges.”

Niamh Ollerton, Deputy Head of Content at QS
Written by Niamh Ollerton

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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